FormulaNerds Cut To The Race Podcast

Wolff Mercedes

Wolff shares number one pick for 2025 seat but won’t ‘discount’ other prospects

For the 2025 season of Formula 1, a seat is available at Mercedes after Lewis Hamilton confirmed his move to Ferrari

Latest Episode | Cut To The Race Podcast

Team Principal of Mercedes, Toto Wolff, has hinted at four drivers he thinks could join the Silver Arrows for the 2025 season, following Lewis Hamilton’s departure. 

Wolff Mercedes
Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), George Russell (Mercedes) and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) after qualifying on the Bahrain International Circuit. ANP REMKO DE WAAL (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)

Before the 2024 season of Formula 1 began, Lewis Hamilton announced that he would be leaving Mercedes at the end of the year. For 2025, the seven-time world champion would join Ferrari and partner Charles Leclerc.

Hamilton’s announcement came as a surprise to some, but the biggest question that remained was who would replace the Brit at Mercedes. The Brackley-based team have George Russell contracted with them until the end of 2025. However, the former Williams driver has out-performed Hamilton in the opening three races; Russell has qualified higher than Hamilton each weekend and has more championship points.

It is likely Russell’s contract will be renewed as Wolff has confirmed he will be “having that seat” because “he’s great” and has been a part of the Mercedes Junior programme for so long. But now, the focus falls on who will partner him.

Over the Australian Grand Prix weekend, Toto Wolff, Team Principal at Mercedes, shared his views on who could potentially take Hamilton’s seat for 2025. Wolff hinted at four drivers as a possibility and said he wants to “really take [his] time” when deciding.

The leading prospect

One of the four prospects to be linked to the empty Mercedes seat is three-time world champion, Max Verstappen. The Dutchman is contracted with Red Bull until the end of 2028, but speculation about him leaving Red Bull has increased in recent weeks due to the allegations against Christian Horner.

Speaking to media about Verstappen joining Mercedes, Wolff admitted that the current championship leader is his number one pick. He said:

“Yes, I mean you see what his performance levels are. But I wouldn’t want to discount the other ones too.

“I think we’ve got to look at ourselves and [ask] what is it we can do with this car. Then it becomes much easier, whoever drives the second car, it’s become much easier for George because he has the potential of being a World Champion and so much more.”

Wolff continued, stating that it’s very much a Mercedes issue to solve. He explained that they can’t just look “for a silver bullet with an amazing driver”; instead, they need to fix the car because Wolff believes if Verstappen drove the W15, it wouldn’t change the team’s performance.

“No, I think he’s extraordinary, but we would give him a car that’s a handful, and difficult to set up and drive.

“I’d rather make that step and be out there and say, ‘This is a car you could drive because it’s also going fast.”

Verstappen Mercedes Wolff
Race winner Max Verstappen during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)
Considering the other options

Whilst Verstappen is looking to be Mercedes’ ideal option, there are three other drivers Wolff is not discarding. When speaking to media, the Mercedes Team Principal admitted he didn’t want to rush into any decisions. He said:

“As much as we were taken aback by Lewis’ decision so quickly, now I want to really take my time. We have a slot free, the only one in the top teams unless Max decides he goes, then the slot is not going to be free with us anymore.

“There are a few options that are really interesting for us, from the very young super talent to some of the elder ones who are very experienced. That’s not going to happen in the next few weeks or months or so… I want to continue to monitor the market.”

F2 driver, world champion and race winner

For 2024, Mercedes are backing Formula 2 driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli; he is part of the junior programme but has skipped Formula 3 after an impressive junior career so far.

Antonelli is very much a focus for Mercedes, but so are two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Australian Grand Prix race winner, Carlos Sainz. Alonso has admitted that speaking to Aston Martin is his “first priority” because he feels like part of the team’s project “very much”. As for Sainz, he is without a seat for 2025. However, after his performance in Melbourne, having recently had surgery, he’s very much a prospect for Mercedes.

Speaking on these three drivers, Wolff said: “I think it depends also on what Max does. Then we have a young kid that is very promising and I don’t want to put more extra pressure on him, but it looks like he can be one of the great ones.

“But we also don’t want to drown him by jumping so quickly in an F1 car at 17. So there are a few options that we play with him. Obviously, there’s Fernando [Alonso] who is very exciting and Carlos [Sainz] is very good. So there are a few ones. I’m gonna make the play like a bride – difficult to get!”

Headline image: GettyImages

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Back to the top